On her MSNBC program, Rachel Maddow debunked the idea that all Republicans support small government. The reality is that all Republicans talk small government, but most want to take away liberties and grow government. Maddow said, “Republicans all say they are small government libertarian conservatives. But what they have done when they have power is authoritarian big government stuff.”
Here is the video:
Maddow began with the three individual freedom killing abortion related bills that the House is currently working on, “Freedom, liberty, letting people do what they want! And then they arrived in Washington and immediately started working on putting government in charge of every single pregnancy in America. Even as they slowed the legislative calendar way down, stopped doing much of anything else, they advanced not one, not two, but three super radical bills to restrict abortion rights. One of those bills had a hearing in the House today. Another one has a hearing tomorrow.”
Later she explained the two strands of current conservative thought, “Proudly speaking, there are two strands of conservative thinking in America right now. There’s libertarian conservatism and then authoritarian conservatism. Small leave me alone government here and big intrusive government over here. And of course, nobody calls themselves an authoritarian conservative…Nobody says I am for big, intrusive government, vote for me. They all say they are on the libertarian side, no matter what kind of Republican is running on what kind of platform, they all say they’re for smaller government, limited government, personal freedom. Those are their buzz words.”
She continued by examining the last decade of Republican policies, “But look at the Republican policies over the last decade. Expanding the National Security Agency, NSA, so it has the ability to wiretap phone calls without a warrant and sift through e-mails, look through library records. Is that small leave me alone government or is that big intrusive government? In the last administration, with a Republican president and Republican controlled Congress, they increased the size of the federal government by more than any other time since World War II when they created the Department of Homeland Security. Small government conservatives, supposedly, put in place a policy of indefinite detention, allowing an American citizen to be arrested and held without charges for years and years and years. I mean, they support the death penalty. The government’s right to kill you. You want to talk about balancing the power of the individual versus the power of the government? Sort of doesn’t get more fundamental than that. Republicans all say they are small government libertarian conservatives. But what they have done when they have power is authoritarian big government stuff.
Maddow explained the big government tendencies of small government conservatives, “That’s true whether or not Democrats went along with them or whether they undid this when they had the chance. This is all Republican initiated policy, and not just on national security, it is culture war, too. The government stepping in to censor textbooks. After the District of Columbia decided they may want gay marriage to be legal, the Republican Congress is making it a federal priority to step in as the federal government and quash that. If you get pregnant, it is not you making the decision or you and your doctor, what you want doesn’t matter. What your doctor recommends doesn’t matter as far as small government folks decide, the government should be the one making that call, not you. This is really big government policy.”
After Maddow pointed out that Democrats are starting to get it, and exploit the split between the authoritarian and libertarian Republicans, she said, “But still, the most important question, the most interesting question at least in American politics, since the Republican primaries in 2008, I think, since in particular the rise of the Ron Paul phenomenon is whether or not people who actually believe in the small government stuff, the true believers, the people that really believe in it, instead of just paying lip service to it, whether they have any hope of surviving in Republican politics.”
Maddow moved on to the surprising defeat of the Patriot Act in the House, “My old friend, Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s dad, he used to talk to me, too, Ron Paul announced opposition to the act on libertarian grounds. When the bill came up to vote today, it was defeated, unexpectedly. 26 Republicans joined with 122 Democrats in voting against reauthorization these provisions of the Patriot Act that were expiring. 26 Republicans bucked their own party on this vote. Now, Democrats voted against the White House on this as well. But that is sort of dog bites man. The left has been criticizing the Patriot Act forever. The man bites dog news here is all of the Republicans voting against it from the right.
Rachel Maddow concluded, “They are starting to make quiet noises about opposition to the Afghanistan war. Everybody in Republican politics long ago learned to talk a fashionable libertarianish line. Democrats are just learning to exploit the fact that Republicans talk a small government game but actually have a really big government agenda. Politics now? What happens next if Republicans actually do start putting their money where their mouth is, if they do start supporting leave me alone government policies, instead of just saying that they do. I think it would be the great American political realignment. Dick Cheney and John Boehner and working together, Rand Paul and the “Rachel Maddow Show” together again on the other side? Call me!”
The vote on the Patriot Act was John Boehner’s worst nightmare come to life. There is a bloc of freshman Republicans who really believe in the small government conservatism that they ran on. These members are principled, and they aren’t going to fall into line on every issue for the House leadership. The surprise defeat reflects very badly on the Republican House leadership, because they should have never attempted to use a procedural maneuver that required a 2/3 majority unless they were certain that they had the votes.
This isn’t the Republican House majority of the last decade, and Tom DeLay isn’t going to be there to hammer members of the caucus into line. What we have here is a deeply fragmented Republican Party that is going to struggle to pass any legislation that might divide the caucus. I suspect that this was the opening salvo from the libertarians in the direction of Boehner and Cantor. The small government conservatives will be taken seriously, or else they will gum up the works whenever they get the chance.
Rachel Maddow did hit on a valuable political message that Democrats need to seize on. Democrats should not only exploit the divide within the Republican congressional caucus, but they should also keep this message in mind for 2012. Exposing the majority of Republican politicians as the authoritarian lovers of big government that they are could be a powerful tool for Democrats to use as they attempt to take back the House next year. The Republican Party is still fractured and divided, and if they don’t find a way to unify quickly, America could once again be saying hello to Speaker Pelosi in 2012.